VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Three USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) culinary specialists competed in, and won, the first Best of the Mess charity event held Feb. 11 in Virginia Beach, Va.
The competition was sponsored by the Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund and pitted five local naval commands, Theodore Roosevelt, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Churchill (DDG 81), Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; against each other in a contest of cooking skill and presentation.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Kenyatta Pore, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Angel Vasquezvelez and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Rogelyn Cambe represented Theodore Roosevelt.
The team entered the competition confident they could win despite one big disadvantage -- while most of the competing commands had been preparing since November, Theodore Roosevelt was a late entry and had just one week to prepare, said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Kenyatta Pore.
"We had a ton of stresses trying to prepare for this in just one week," said Pore. "Did we have all the supplies and ingredients? Could we feed 300 people on top of getting the job done for the judges? But, it was kind of the same thing as feeding the crew every day so it was stressful but kind of easy in comparison."
Each team had a budget of $1,250 and a list of ingredients to use. Theodore Roosevelt's chefs began preparing the meal at 4 a.m. on competition day. They cooked for more than 12 hours before the event and continued long into the night.
"When you serve a crew you have to continue to cook during the meal," said Vasquezvelez. "The competition was setup in the same way. We started serving the guests and 45 minutes after that we had to present our meal to the judges."
Theodore Roosevelt's team accomplished what they set out to do. On short notice and working under pressure, they came together and presented the judges and guests with the winning meal.
"I had a pretty good feeling we would win," said Pore. "I could hear the guests talking and the way the judges were responding to our food made me pretty confident. We were in it to win it and came away with the trophy."
The event raised money for the Chief Petty Officer Scholarship fund.
"We've got the best mess," said Cmdr. Paul Amodio, TR's supply officer. "To be able to showcase that and showcase our guys talents is always a great opportunity, especially when it's for charity."
"These events are how we help each other and that's what it's all about," said Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. "This is a great opportunity to get money into a scholarship fund that will then be distributed by the Chief Petty Officer Association. This is a real win-win for the people and for the Navy; we all come out winners on this. It's a real good thing."
Theodore Roosevelt will own the trophy for the next year. Their chefs are determined to extend their time with the prize.
"We won this with only a week of preparation," said Vasquezvelez. "We blew away the competition and impressed the judges. I can't wait to see what we can do next year."
Patrick Kearney, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia, spoke highly of the Theodore Roosevelt's competing team.
"We had five commands competing to see who had the best chow and hands down it was [TR]," said Kearney. "They did a really good job tonight. It was some really tough competition but they really put their heart and soul into what they did, and it was apparent and really came through in their food."
For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.